Usually we eschew noting national fill-in-the-blank months, weeks or days in this particular portion of the newspaper. However, seasonal influenza disease affects so many people it is justifiable to help further educate the public.

Dec. 7 to 13 has been established as this year's National Influenza Vaccination Week. As the flu has yet to peak in 2014, it is not too late to receive a flu vaccine. It is seriously worth considering for the community's sake even if you don't believe in getting one strictly for yourself.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates between 5 percent and 20 percent of the population comes down with the flu. Although most people who contract the flu recover in less than two weeks, influenza is nothing to treat lightly. Hospitalizations do occur, and sometimes death is the result.

The CDC says an average year has more than 200,000 people being hospitalized from flu complications. Approximately 36,000 die from the flu. In Kansas, influenza or pneumonia contributed to or was the direct cause of 1,135 deaths during the 2013-14 influenza season.

KHI News Service reports there are confirmed "local" outbreaks of flu in the state, primarily in northeast Kansas at this point. As the worst is yet to come, health officials are urging the public to take the commonsense measure of getting a shot -- or nasal mist if a child.

"Getting a flu vaccination is still the best way to protect yourself and those who are at high risk," said Dr. Susan Mosier, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the state's health officer. "Flu season is here and before it becomes widespread, take the opportunity to get your vaccine now."

You'll need to act promptly, depending on where you usually obtain this service. The Ellis County Health Department, for example, has almost exhausted the 1,500 vaccines it had. The Walgreen's pharmacy reported it had plenty of the regular vaccines, although no more nasal mist.

The CDC recommends everyone 6 months of age and older to get an annual flu vaccine. Not surprisingly, the most at-risk categories are pregnant women, adults 65 and older, children younger than 5 -- especially those younger than 2, and anyone with chronic health conditions such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes..

While receiving a flu shot is the most important preventive measure to take, the CDC says there are other commonsense rules to follow:

* Flu viruses most commonly are spread via coughing, sneezing or talking. As droplets can travel up to 6 feet, cover your mouth as often as possible.

* Washing your hands and common area surfaces is paramount.

* Stay away from sick people.

* If you have the flu, stay home.

If you get a flu vaccination, it can keep you from getting sick or at least make your illness milder if you do. It also helps protect those around you who are at-risk.

Most insurance plans cover the cost, but even if yours doesn't, the vaccine is relatively inexpensive. It also is worth every penny of prevention.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net